Centre recommends final notice on ESZ around Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary
After several months of being in the offing, the Centre has recommended final notification for the delineated eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS). The decision was taken during the Union environment ministry’s ESZ Expert Committee meeting on August 17, minutes of which were published on September 8. An ESZ is a buffer area created around a wildlife sanctuary or national park to reduce developmental pressures.
The draft notification for the declaration of ESZ around Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary was first notified on November 6, 2019 but was subsequently re-notified on April 30 this year after the Maharashtra government revised its proposal to increase the area earmarked for protection by the forest department. It was initially proposed to include 34.06 sq km of adjacent land within the ESZ, but the state government in March this year wrote to the Centre proposing to include an additional 14 sq km of land therein.
The proposal also increased the maximum width of the originally proposed buffer area to a maximum of 3.98km, as compared to 3.5km earlier. At its southernmost point near Vashi bridge, the width of ESZ is 0km, while at its northernmost point at Thane-Kalwa bridge, the width is 2km. “Zero extent at few stretches of the eco-sensitive zone for Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary is due to its location being at the intersection of the highly urbanized areas of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai and being close to another major city viz. Thane,” the ministry’s expert committee has noted.
Spread across 1,690.5 hectares (ha) across Mulund, Vikhroli, Bhandup, Kanjurmarg and parts of Mandale village, TCFS is home to 12 true mangrove species, 39 mangrove associates, 167 species of birds including flamingos, 45 fish species, 59 species of butterflies, 67 insect species, among other mammals such as jackals. In May 2018, the state had declared it a flamingo sanctuary.
About 1,400ha of mangrove forests towards the Navi Mumbai side of ESZ were not originally covered in the ambit of the original ESZ delineation because they were already declared as reserve forests under the Indian Forest Act, forest department officials said. They are also covered under CRZ (coastal regulation zone). However, last February, the ministry recommended their inclusion in ESZ. “The final step in the process now will be when the Government of India’s publishes the notification in their official Gazette, which is expected soon,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF), mangrove cell.
The ESZ notification does not mitigate developmental pressures entirely, however. HT had reported, on August 28, that the Union environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) for CRZ clearances has given a go-ahead for setting up 47 transmission towers in Mumbai, a portion of which will pass through the TCFS for less than half a kilometre. The EAC has recommended that bird diverters should be installed among the transmission lines “so as to avoid accidental collision of birds ie flamingos”.